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Dalai Lama hailed on first visit to Taiwan

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Buddhists swarmed for a glimpse of the Dalai Lama and supporters waved Tibet's snow-lion flag Saturday to greet the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader on his first visit to Taiwan. China opposed the trip.

The Dalai Lama told reporters he was looking forward to meeting Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui - an event China sees as a pairing of its two most vilified "splittists," its label for those it accuses of trying to break up the motherland."Taiwan authorities and the Dalai Lama clique are colluding and using each other, consorting with evil doers, going further and further down the road of splitting China," China's official People's Daily newspaper quoted unidentified Tibet specialists saying Saturday.

The Dalai Lama said his six-day visit aims to promote "basic human values" and religious harmony.

China has ruled Tibet with military force since occupying it in 1950. It claims sovereignty over Taiwan, home to the Nationalists who fled to the island after the 1949 Communist victory on the mainland, and believes Lee wants to dump the doctrine of eventual reunification with China and seek formal independence for the island.

Scores of demonstrators for and against the Dalai Lama's visit shouted and waved placards in a rowdy display of the political pluralism that made his visit possible.

Supporters of Taiwan's formal independence from China welcomed him, linking their cause to that of Tibet. Their opponents, hard-core supporters of reunification with China, accused him of mixing politics and religion.

"Tibetans and Han are all Chinese, United in one China," one sign read, referring to the majority ethnic group in China.

Members of Taiwan's small Tibetan community carried portraits of the Dalai Lama.

"We're very happy to have him come. He's done everything for us," said Dyunjul, a Tibetan who came to Taiwan as a student.

The Dalai Lama was mobbed by Buddhist followers at suburban Kaohsiung's Fokuangshan temple, where the abbot hailed his visit as a "great event in Buddhist history."

In an address to a packed lecture hall, he called for more interaction between Chinese and Tibetan schools of Buddhism, and drew laughter and applause with a few words of Chinese.

The Dalai Lama has said he would accept a settlement for Tibet that falls short of full independence from China.

Taiwan's ruling Nationalists have a residual historical claim over Tibet as part of their broader claim to rule all of China. But with democratization and lesser emphasis on reunification with China, their insistence on that claim has softened, allowing the Dalai Lama to visit here as a religious leader.